Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Links

Ever heard of Farm Dreams? It's a one-stop place for like-minded people to connect on things like gardening, homesteading, animal husbandry, farming, etc. It's a cool new homesteading mecca!

Trying to get away from using plastic? Here's an interesting article on how to freeze food without using plastics.

Ever wonder if your favorite cold-fighting stand-bys really work? Check out this article here!

Oh, and I just have to mention that hot water bottles are our new best friends! They are a great investment (the reusable silicone ones by Fashy are awesome!) and are not only good for keeping toes warm, they can help a tummy ache, or some achy muscles.

I used to dream of electric blankets and how warm I'd be in the winter if I had one, but I found out that they take over your body's task of keeping you warm. So, like in the summer when the AC is cranking, it is taking over your body's natural ways of keeping cool and therefore your tolerance for heat plummets. Likewise, with electric blankets, they lower your tolerance for keeping warm in winter. Interesting, huh?

A belated happy winter! I hope you're all staying warm. We've had rain all day, but I'm sure there's snow coming sometime. :-)

No-Poo Update

Just a quick update on going no-shampoo. Things have been going much better than I expected. For the first couple weeks my hair was totally normal and felt and looked clean. In fact, a friend of mine, after finding out I was only washing my hair with baking soda, looked at my hair and said, "Your hair looks clean to me!" haha! These past couple weeks my hair has been a little more greasy than usual, but that just may be because I'm not washing it as often and so it's just adjusting.

A big thing that I noticed is that with my thick hair I have to be very liberal with dousing my hair with the baking soda/water solution. I have to make sure my hair is sopping wet with it, that it's getting to my scalp and everything. I scrub it around and then rinse it out and then do the vinegar rinse. One time I did not thoroughly douse my hair with the baking soda/water and my hair wasn't that clean.

My scalp has also been a little itchy, so I've been making sure to rub some of the vinegar mixture on my scalp. If that doesn't help, I'll try honey next. Honey is a lot more moisturizing than vinegar, but if you tend to have oilier hair, vinegar would work better.

I'd say the biggest downside is that the baking soda/water is stinkin' COLD when I pour it on my head in my nice hot shower. Not very nice, but maybe having it sit in the hot shower with me on the floor of the tub for awhile before I use it will help solve that problem.

So in the end - Things are still going strong and I have the cheapest shampoo ever! Woohoo!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No-Poo, Take 2

Thanks to Tsh over at Simplemom.net I am giving no shampoo a try again. She's been using baking soda and vinegar to clean her hair for 2 years! Here are her articles that I read:


After reading her blog posts, I realized what I think I did wrong before. I was measuring out the baking soda and mixing it with water right before I washed my hair. This didn't give the soda enough time to dissolve in the water, so it was just ending up on my scalp. She uses a recipe where you mix it up in advance, shake it up before you use it and she applies it differently than I did. Those were enough differences to get me to want to give it another go!

So, I just washed my hair, incorporating the changes, and just with this first wash I noticed a difference! I am excited to try this long term and will keep you updated. I'm worried about itchy scalp, but one commenter left on her blog the suggestion of rubbing in a little cocoa butter or coconut oil?

I've been using apple cider vinegar instead of conditioner for quite a few months and I love it. (I use Bragg's raw, unfiltered ACV.) My left-over conditioner has been consigned to be used as shaving cream in the shower. Way to be thrifty, eh? It actually works pretty well!

We'll see how this adventure goes!

Dough Whisk Update

Yesterday I made a 2-loaf batch of bread. We've been out of town and then I was sick, so it's been almost 2 months since I last made bread! I was so excited to use this dough whisk and a little skeptical too. How could a funky-looking thing like that make mixing dough by hand easier?

Well, let me tell you, folks, it DOES! I was totally amazed! Those super sturdy wires just cut through the dough like butter, mixing it quickly to boot! I was totally floored. Those Danes sure know their stuff! (which is where this dough whisk originated)

Check out  my review of this dough whisk on Amazon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Turkey Pictures

I just added pictures to my turkey post below! Check them out!

Fast-Stir Peanut Butter

I really love the all-natural peanut butter made of straight up peanuts and salt. The flavor is just so pure and delicious! The downside is, yes, the stirring to reincorporate the oil. Those darn peanut oils! Sure, they've come up with no-stir natural peanut butters, but do you know how they're non-stir? It's because of the extra cottonseed/palm oil they add to it. Yuck! 

Well, if you're like me you've slaved over one of those jars - laboriously shoving the knife around the jar, sloshing oils over the side, and wishing you had done this earlier so that you could just have your stinking peanut butter sandwich now! Today was one of those days. 

And then... I had a breakthrough. Why was I putting myself through the agony? Why should I have to stand there for 15 minutes to get a semi-mixed peanut butter and oil all over the counter while my kids went hungry? No more! I dumped all that peanut butter into a mixing bowl, whipped out my electric hand mixer and beat that peanut butter into submission!! It took 2 minutes. The peanut butter is now smooth and creamy and perfectly blended. What a relief!

Why did I wait so long to do it this way? I guess besides necessity, desperation is also the mother of invention.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 5 Kitchen Gadgets for Home Cooks

I have been decluttering most of my house and getting rid of a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, the kitchen is a bit harder for me. I love cool kitchen gadgets that aren't one-trick ponies, but have a variety of uses. I thought I'd list my top 5 favorites that just might find their way onto your own wish list. But don't put them on your Christmas list. You don't want kitchen stuff for Christmas. It's stuff for the household, so it for sure needs to come out of the household portion of your budget. ;-)

1. External Oven Thermometer

A good friend of mine got an external thermometer for me. (I think because I was drooling over it so much at the kitchen store.) It's pretty embarrassing how giddy I get over this thing. You just stick the probe into your bread or your meat in the oven, sit the device on the counter or stick it to something magnetic and then it beeps when it reaches temperature! How insanely cool is that??!?! (Or am I just super geeky about kitchen stuff? Please tell me I'm not the only one...)

2. Convection Toaster Oven

I recently invested in one of these. And I'm seriously thinking of getting rid of my regular toaster. Why? Well, for one, I can toast 4-6 slices of bread at once and it actually toasts the bread in one go- no pushing the toast down 2 or 3 times to get it toasted enough. Yippee! And look! You can bake a small pizza in there, several potatoes, reheat some garlic bread or broil some fish... The possibilities are endless!

The things I love: it toasts, has a convection fan to speed up baking, it broils, and it uses a lot less energy than heating up your entire oven. Also, if you want to reheat something so that it's crispy, like leftover pizza, it's a better option than a microwave which leaves your pizza soggy and unevenly heated.

I thought I might get rid of our microwave because of this puppy, but no. It does a lot of things, but it doesn't thaw meat out in 10 minutes like I need to do sometimes. So much for decluttering.

3. Bosch Universal Mixer

This baby is on my wish list. We're saving up for it. Yes, it's pricey but I just have one thing to say: "Move over KitchenAid!"

I love that it doesn't have this huge honkin' thing hanging over the bowl. It's super powerful and easy to add new ingredients from the top. One of their newest improvements include suction cup feet so that it doesn't vibrate or jump around (like some gadget I know that starts with Kitchen and ends in Aid.) A friend of mine owns one and loves it. The downside with any type of mixer like this is that the attachments are separate. I want to get the meat grinder and the sausage stuffer! I've always wanted to make my own sausage! Of course it's main use would be to knead bread.

4. Dough Whisk

After all those electronic gadgets, this one is wonderfully simple, yet effective. I got one recently, but haven't used it yet. The dough whisk makes stirring heavy bread dough (or cookie dough) much easier than with a spoon and the dough doesn't stick to it either, apparently. It looks pretty darn cool too! I can't wait to use it!

5. Kitchen Shears

I have to say that this is one of my most-used tools in the kitchen. I have the exact pair shown above and I've used it to strip herbs, but mostly to cut food packaging, to cut vegetables and fruit (when I'm feeling lazy), and even to cut the tips off raw chicken wings when I make homemade hot wings. They are very sturdy and strong and I love that they come apart to be washed in the dishwasher. Another good thing is that their edge is smooth, not serrated, so that they are easy to sharpen at home with a good knife/scissor sharpener. I love my kitchen shears!

Okay, I know I only said 5 kitchen gadgets, but I had to throw this last one in there. I know so many women that have had a hard time finding good kitchen knives. I myself bought what I considered a "good" set of knives, only to be disappointed with how they felt in my hand and how they cut.

What you're looking for in a good knife is a solid handle that is a single piece with the blade, is comfortable to hold, and has a thin blade. In my opinion, the most perfect kitchen knives are made by Rada. These knives are amazing. My mom had one of their paring knives when I was growing up and that knife seriously lasted forever. And it was the perfect size. My husband and I got 2 sets as wedding presents (lucky me!) and I have love, love, loved them! Just be sure to have a good knife sharpener and those knives will last a really long time. Not to mention, I think they are pretty affordable and a great investment. Heck, they could become a treasured family heirloom! They stick really well to my magnetic knife bar too. :-)

Happy drooling!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Yada Yada

Right now there are thousands of "new and improved" turkey recipes floating around on blogs and throughout the internet telling you how to make the most perfect, moist turkey. However, how many of those recipes are stress-free? How many require the turkey to be perfectly timed or executed with the stress hanging over your head that you may have dried out your bird and there will be no way to tell until carving time?

Well, believe it or not, I know a truly stress-free way of making turkey for the big Thanksgiving dinner. Pssst! And guess what? You can make it days in advance and have it amazingly delicious and JUICY on the big day! No kidding, I promise.

Amazing Crock Pot Turkey, My Mom's Style:

What you need:

- a raw, thawed turkey
- an oven baking bag (You can get special plastic bags at the store that you cook your turkey in that speed up the cooking big time. I had a medium turkey cook in an hour and a half! Reynolds is the only brand that I know of.)
- spices, salt & pepper
- crock pot/slow cooker

Two or three days before Thanksgiving - 

Mix up your favorite spices in a bowl. I usually put in a tablespoon each of rosemary, onion powder, thyme, cracked pepper, and whatever else I feel like throwing in there. You can even add celery seed or sage if you like. Keep in mind that whatever you add is what your turkey will taste like - not just the skin, but the meat too because we'll be using all the turkey juices to stew the meat in.

Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt according to taste and mix the spices up well.

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Rinse off your turkey and be sure to remove any "extras" from inside the turkey's rib cage cavity. Save them though!

Place your turkey on a clean, non-wooden surface (Wood absorbs meat juices. Yikes!) and taking a handful of your spice mix, start lovingly rubbing it into your turkey's skin. Okay, it doesn't have to be lovingly. Vigourously rub your spice mix into your turkey's skin. Rub the turkey all over - on the bottom, under the wings - everywhere on the outside - until your spice rub has been used up.

Follow the directions for the oven baking bag (usually you have to put a tablespoon of flour in the bag and shake it around). Holding the turkey by its legs, place your turkey in the bag breast-side up, add in the extras you removed before, secure the tie, and place it in your baking pan. Make a few vent holes in the bag with scissors or a sharp knife.

Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 12 to 16 lb. turkey, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 16 to 20 lb. turkey, and 3 to 3 1/3 hours for a 20 to 24 lb. turkey, or until the meat thermometer reads 180ºF.

Once the turkey is done baking, the leg should move easily in its socket. Allow the turkey to cool for a half hour to an hour. Have a large container very close by. Cut the bag and carefully remove the turkey to the holding container. Be careful! It may fall apart in transit. (This is years of experience talking!) Allow it to cool until it is comfortable to touch. In the meantime, pour all the juices into a large container, or a few smaller ones. Cover, and put these in the fridge.

Notice the fat floating on top of the broth?

Once the turkey is cool enough to touch, you'll need to debone it. That's right! No carving ritual here, people! Put the meat into containers and put it in the fridge.

And guess what? You're done! It's amazing! It's a miracle! Now sit back and relax with a warm apple cider.

The morning of the big day - 

Take out the container of juices. The fat will have risen to the top and solidified. Remove the fat and then put the jelly-fied juices into your crock pot. Next, remove your turkey meat and put it into the crock pot with the juices. Depending on when your dinner is, set your crock pot to low (think 4-6 hours) or high (think 2-3 hours). 

And now cackle with glee, because you are totally done! Your turkey will sit there simmering in its lovely herbed juices while you go skipping out of the kitchen to spend quality time with family. And come dinner time - ooooh, delicious juicy turkey! Trust me. You'll never go back to those carved slabs of cardboard again!
Mmm! Juicy turkey!

Happy Turkey Day (early - just like your crock pot turkey!)

*baking info: http://www.reynoldsovenbags.com/RDetails.aspx?id=906&cat=4

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Neighborhood Turkey

This year I really wanted to commit to buying a local turkey - one from our neighborhood, where I could take my kids to the farm and they could see where their Thanksgiving turkey came from. I picked Weber's Cider Mill Farm up the road about 20 minutes. Choosing a local bird is one step closer to being more aware of our food and the truth of where it comes from. A lot of kids grow up thinking meat comes from the store in cellophane-wrapped Styrofoam. And they're right. Most of our meat does come that way our whole lives. But I want my kids to understand that their meat had a life before it died to be on their plate. I'd really like to teach them respect for life and that it's not something we should take for granted. (My son first realized just this year that chicken that we eat is the same chicken that he's seen at farms running around clucking. It was a bit of a shock, but he took it rather well!)

This isn't to say that those who buy their meat from the store are taking things for granted. Most of the time, there isn't much choice. We have to do the best we can, especially in this difficult economy. I myself still buy chicken vacuum packed in plastic because it's what I can afford. But I'm taking this food awareness/reality one step at a time. This step happens to be a Thanksgiving turkey. And I can't wait to meet the farmers who raised it and to see where the bird lived out his life. I hope to pick up a jug of cider while I'm at it too!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Top 13 Foods to Buy Organic

Knowing which produce items to buy organic and which ones don't matter as much can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. We want to eat the most healthy we can with the best foods we can find. Does it really matter if we buy organic strawberries or apples? Can't we just wash them and get the pesticides off?

I came across this list a few years ago and found it helpful. What I learned was that even if there aren't any pesticides on the surface when you purchase or wash the produce you're about to eat, the plants were sprayed with pesticides during their growth and was absorbed through their leaves and the roots absorbed pesticides in the ground water. So, it's part of the fruit and isn't something that can be washed away.

Sometimes we can't always buy everything organic, I know. But, it's nice to know the top 13 types of conventional produce to avoid and to buy as organic if we can.

1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Imported grapes
11. Carrots
12. Pears
13. Potatoes

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls... For REAL

Sorry for the delay in posting. October was a crazy month. I know everyone says stuff like that, but no. Really. (My family and I went on a 2 week vacation which turned into a 4 week vacation because I had to get my appendix out and couldn't fly for 2 weeks.) But we're back home now! Whew!

And you know what I found out? October 5th is National Cinnamon Roll day in Denmark. Or was it Sweden? Anyway, the point is is that it's absolutely amazing that someone celebrates such a delectable breakfast food. (That's right it's breakfast!) I totally wanted to celebrate such an awesome holiday. Who wouldn't want to celebrate cinnamon rolls?!

Well, while we were on vacation in Utah, I went to a bread night with a friend of mine and this lady gave out the following recipe for the most amazing, soft, delicious rolls of the perfect, hold-in-your-hand size. Not too big, not too small. Did I say they were SOFT? Oh, they were divine! And the greatest part of this recipe is that you can convert it to a Raspberry Cream roll too. Ooooooohhhhh....

Cinnamon Rolls
By Cathy King & Shauna Flammer

2 cups scalded milk (heated just until it starts to steam)
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1cup mashed potatoes (plain)
7 cups flour, approx.

1/2 cup butter, softened or melted
Brown sugar

1. Pour scalded milk over butter and allow to cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in warm water. Add to milk mixture along with the eggs, sugar, salt, mashed potatoes, and 4 cups of flour. Mix with a spoon until somewhat blended.

2. Dump the mixture onto a floured surface (a cookie sheet, baking mat, counter top, etc.) and with your hands, fold and gently knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is soft, but well mixed and the dough has lost its shine. The stickier the dough, the lighter the finished product will be. The dough will not be able to hold its shape in a nice neat ball like when you're making a loaf of bread. It should be a lot stickier and more like a blob. (I know this sounds crazy, but you'll just have to trust me. I didn't believe this recipe until I was making it and then it made a lot more sense.)

3. Put the dough on a floured cookie sheet, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled - or 45 minutes to an hour. The dough will be a lot less sticky as the yeast has eaten up a lot of that gluten. (This is what the lady said. It made sense, and it turned out that she was right about the less-stickiness part.) :-)

4. Roll dough in a rectangle 4" wide (ONLY 4" - you'll see why) and 1" thick. Spread with softened or melted butter, sprinkle with brown sugar to taste and cover the darn thing with tons of cinnamon, if you're like me at all and LOVE it. :-)

5. Take both sides of the 4" width and fold it to the center into thirds. (One side to the middle, the second side to the other side. I hope that makes sense!) Cut your rolls into 18 rolls using dental thread. You'll notice that they are nice little cinnamon rolls of the perfect size! Place them on a greased cookie sheet with sides (jelly roll pan) and cover. Let rise until doubled. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake for 20 minutes. Ice if desired. (I totally forgot to ice them, and they were still amazing!)

Icing: 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 3 Tbsp. milk. Cream together powdered sugar and butter. Add the vanilla and milk. Mix until creamy.

Raspberry Cream Rolls

Make the rolls as directed above. When you get to step #4, instead of butter and cinnamon, spread on 4 oz. of very soft cream cheese, lightly sprinkle on white sugar to your taste, then spread on your favorite raspberry jam. Continue steps as above and then DEVOUR with delight!

Happy Rolling!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life-Altering Bread!

Okay, maybe it's not that dramatic, but I just made this bread last night, and the following recipe really changed the way I think about homemade bread. Of course, I love homemade bread, but after a day or two, it starts to get dry and crumbly, and that makes it hard to compete with soft-for-weeks store-bought bread. Believe me, I try to fight those thoughts, but they come unbidden!

Well, this bread had such an amazing, fine crumb, and is so soft... I can cut it and the slice doesn't fall apart. It's beautiful!! Try this bread out. I think the secret is the egg.

Rich Honey Egg Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (or more) of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. of salt
2 1/4 tsp. yeast (1 packet)
3/4 cup very warm water
2 Tbsp. oil
1 large egg
Butter, if desired

1. Mix the whole wheat flour, the salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the honey to the warm water and stir until mostly dissolved. Add the water/honey mixture to the bowl with the flour. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Add egg; beat until smooth. Mix in the all-purpose flour and more, if needed, to make dough easy to handle.

2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Place dough in a large, greased bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely and let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until double. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

3. Grease bottom and sides of a regular-sized bread loaf pan. Gently push fist into dough to deflate and knead a couple strokes. Pull dough into a tight log shape and place in the loaf pan. Cover loosely and let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until double.

4. Move oven rack to low position so that top of pan will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 375º. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190º and crust is a deep golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack and brush loaf with butter; cool. AND EAT! Mmmmm!!!

*Adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe.

Volunteering & A Soap Box

I just spent a couple hours at the Days End Horse Rescue farm this morning. Today I curried a beautiful chestnut horse and learned how to push him around (to get to his other side), and I mucked out two stalls. I really enjoyed these chores, lost in my own thoughts and enjoying the feel of my hand running across the horse's coarse hair as I brushed him. I even enjoyed the heft of the shovel, heavy with wet sawdust and dumped it into my cart. It's a good exercise, living in suburbia, to get a taste of outdoor work and taking care of animals. It gives me a glimpse into what I might want on our own homestead in the near future.

For a long time, it's been hard to look at houses for sale. It's this tortuous thing that my husband and I do every now and then. It's like we can't even help ourselves. After awhile I would get sick of that longing ache and tell my husband we had to stop. It's so hard to look at something that you can't have!

Well, the other day something changed in my thinking. Instead of focusing on what we don't have, what we can't do, I realized that right now is the time to be doing the research, to be finding out what we do and do not want in a home and land. At the Mother Earth News fair, I talked to one of the workshop teachers and her husband after her class ("Why Homegrown and Homemade"), and they warned me to be careful about buying land in the "country". Her husband said that a lot of times, farmers sell off bits of their farmland in parcels of 5 acres or so to people who want to live in "the country". But what you need to know is that a lot of these farmers have sprayed their fields with who knows what for who knows how long and when you buy that parcel of land neighboring a used field, who knows what they will continue to spray on it! I had never thought of that before and I am so glad they told me that. It's one more thing to add to our list of what to look out for as we're looking for a place to settle.

This morning on the radio I heard this advertisement for Monsanto (a big {evil} agricultural company) and
 it said "Monsanto - working with farmers in the U.S. and internationally towards sustainability". I yelled at the radio, "Yeah, RIGHT!" Monsanto is one of those big bullying ag companies that created the GMO crops out there - crops that aren't reliable, crops that cannot be planted from their own seed, crops that spread their contaminated pollen into unsuspecting farmer's fields that have saved their seeds for generations. I am all for GMO foods required by law to be labeled. Do you know why there's such a big fight against it? I think it's because 80% of what's in the stores would need to put "contains GMO food products" on their packaging. It's so scary and it is so sad that it's getting harder and harder to have pure foods. - Another reason to look for land away from farmer's fields so that my own plants won't be affected.

Okay... I'm off my soap box now.

Happy October!

Happy October everyone! I'm a few days late, but that's okay! October 1st for us was cold and cloud-covered - the perfect autumn weather! Just today on the radio I heard that in Sweden it's National Cinnamon Roll day. Hello! That's a day I'd like to celebrate. :-)

Speaking of bread, I'll be posting an amazing bread recipe I just found in a bit. But right now, I'm off to the Days End Horse Rescue farm!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Made From Scratch Heaven!

I stumbled on this site when I was looking for corn syrup alternatives in recipes and they have a lot of "DIY " recipes. I am totally stoked! I can't wait to give a few of them a try. The site is called The Kitchn. Here's the link:

And here's an article called "To Bake or Not to Bake".

Have fun!


I am totally appalled that tomato season completely passed me by and I didn't even notice. I didn't hear anything about it, I was just clueless. Maybe it was because my own tomatoes were sad failures. I really have no idea I could be so out there that I could forget about tomatoes. And now, I am frantic about what to do!

For the past 2 years I've canned my own salsa. I don't even want to go back to the store-bought! I might throw a tantrum if I'm forced to. Home canned salsa is so amazing. It's so flavorful and delicious, even more so knowing that I canned it myself. (Even if I didn't add as much salt as I was supposed to and every time we opened a jar we had to add a teaspoon of salt. haha!)

Seriously, we're down to ONE jar. In my family, that is just not acceptable. My husband can go through an entire quart jar all by himself in one sitting. No joke.

But wait! I just realized... I have 2 cases of canned organic diced tomatoes... I know I didn't pick the tomatoes myself, I didn't meet the plant they were picked from, but they're already peeled and and diced for me... Yes! Redemption! My jalapenos did very well this year and all I need are some peppers and onions and I am set! Woo! That's makin' do, folks! Yesirree! I can breathe again knowing that we'll have a stock of salsa to last us another year. And hopefully I won't forget about the tomatoes next year.

P.S. Here's my salsa recipe.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mother Earth News Fair 2011

We got back late Saturday night from this year's Mother Earth News Fair in PA. We left our kids with some friends, which was a very good decision. Everyone was much happier all around that way! This was actually kind of an early anniversary trip for my hubby and me. We were married in December, but it's hard to go anywhere if you don't like skiing. (I do want to go snow shoeing this year though...) We had a great time at the fair. (And it sure helped to bring our own lunch. Lines were crazy...) If you're curious, advance tickets to the fair were only $15. That's pretty darn reasonable!

I just have to say that the fair was fabulous! There were a lot of great improvements over last year's fair. For one, the book store section was 6 times the size it was before, in the center of the room, and they sent 25% off coupons with our tickets! Hooray for coupons! I got some awesome books. I even read one I got already called Maple Sugar: From Sap to Syrup - The History, Lore, and How-To Behind This Sweet Treat. The book was awesome! (I really just love Storey Publishing. Their books rock.)

Okay, enough gushing. Here are the workshops I attended:

1. Chick Days: First steps to a backyard flock - Jenna Woginrich

2. A Year in the Life of a Micro Farm - Andy McCallister (how awesome that he put his power point online!! - click on the title of the workshop for his power point link)

3. Food Sovereignty: Get Big Ag and the goverment out of your kitchen - Robin Mather
If you're tired of the government telling you what you can and can't eat, if you're angered by Big Ag's refusal to label GMO foods, a food sovereignty initiative may be the solution. Learn how tiny Sedgewick, Maine, passed the country's first food sovereignty laws, and get the nuts-and-bolts materials to do the same.
Robin's Blog

4. The Backyard Rabbitry: Rabbits for Meat - Jenna Woginrich

5. Working Companions: Dogs for small farms and homesteads - Heather Houlahan

6. Why Homegrown and Handmade - Deborah Niemann

7. Keynote Speech: Taking the First Steps to Sustainability - Jenna Woginrich (got my books of hers autographed and got a free unproofed copy of her new book "Barnheart" due out in December! Woohoo! Thanks, Jenna!)

My husband went to other workshops talking about bio-diesel, passive-solar homes, and other geeky technical stuff like that. It was great to divide and conquer!

I took notes at all of the workshops and I'm planning on typing them up. So, if you're interested, just let me know and I can e-mail you the notes.

Books I got: Maple Sugar: From Sap to Syrup, Chick Days, Homegrown and Handmade (I just found out that this book isn't even released yet! Huh!), How to Grow and Preserve Your Own Food (a Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series booklet with a compilation of articles on one similar topic), Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey (Grit Country Skills Series), and my husband got a booklet on straw bale building specifications for builders. We just might have a straw bale structure in our distant future... :-)

The fair was so fun. I can't wait to go again next year! (Sorry no pictures! I was rushing around looking at stuff and forgot I was lugging around my camera. Sheesh.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Days End Horse Rescue

Whoa, it's been awhile! Sorry about that.

I was able to arrange it to have a babysitter come and watch the kids once a week so that I could get out of the house. (It's nice not to go crazy!) And I wanted to spend the time either volunteering for the park where I'm on the museum committee, at a horse rescue farm, or sitting in a coffee shop working on my writing. (I'm in a writers group! Yay!)

I've passed Days End Horse Rescue farm on the way to pick fruit at Larriland Farms many times. Outside their main fence they've had a sign saying they needed volunteers, so I signed up! I'll probably go there twice a month to work. I look at it as a chance to learn in a realistic setting what it takes to care for large animals (horses in this case) and to gain some valuable experience at a working farm for when we have our own small farm some day. I figure the price of a babysitter every week is like paying for an inexpensive hands-on course in horse care and farm chores. Awesome!

So, I went there last Tuesday and went through a one-on-one orientation with this nice young woman named Jill. She showed me around the farm, explained where they get their rescued horses from (abused and neglected) and how they bring them back to health. All the horses are graded at a certain level of behavior so that beginner volunteers don't wind up working with a Level Red horse who is dangerous and highly unpredictable.

My first day I helped muck out a stall (Yay! I've been looking forward to that. Well, hey, I didn't grow up on a farm so mucking is like a novelty!) and accidentally left the horse's stall door open when I left to dump off the old sawdust from his stall. Doh! Luckily, he was occupied with his food and didn't make a break for it and an employee saw it in time and closed the door. Won't make that mistake again! I also helped move around some donations from another farm into the feed barn and filled up a wheel barrow with fresh sawdust for the stall. And I learned to "catch" and lead a horse as well as how to read a horse's body language. Luckily they gave me a nice, docile horse who was a sweetie and only a tiny stubborn. After only a few hours I was beat! It really showed me how much of a wimp I am - something I'm hoping volunteering at this place will cure. I really have never been around big animals like this much, and it was pretty intimidating! I'm used to cats and gerbils, people! So, obviously, I've got a lot to learn.

And man, it was muddy! I'm gonna have to get me some muck boots...

Oh, and the 2011 Mother Earth News Fair is coming up this weekend! Woohoooo! And I'm very excited that Jenna from Cold Antler Farm is going to be there to speak and hold a couple of workshops. I am really stoked about her meat rabbit workshop. I'll let you know what I learn!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Respect the Land

Have you ever noticed that some houses look like a big eye sore, no matter how beautiful the house itself, just because it doesn't fit with the land around it?

I've noticed that there is a difference between working with the land and forcing the land to submit to your use. Usually, the first option always turns out well. The second option not so well.

For instance, take this example: Down by Annapolis, Marland there are these gorgeous Cape Cod homes along the river. The problem is that there is serious cliff erosion. It's just dirt. And you can see how pieces of the dirt cliff just keeps falling into the water. It's natural erosion. The problem is that the house is inching closer and closer to the edge of the river even though it's standing still. I guess people don't expect the land to change. Funny enough, one of the houses that is closest to the edge of the cliff is for sale. No thank you! Eventually, those houses will end up in the river. It's a sad, sad thing and not much can be done, unfortunately.

During a geology class in college out in Utah, we took a field trip up to the side of the mountain to see a house slowly being squashed flat because of a slow land creep. There was nothing to do to stop it. Oh, and it was on an earthquake fault. And guess what? The house was for sale! It's important to do your geological research before you buy a house. Because legally, the homeowner or land developer don't have to tell you if your house is on a fault line or if there is a slow land slide at work 10 feet from the property line!

These two examples are cases of not working with the land, but trying to force it to act for you. Usually the land wins. It's older and smarter and does its thing not really caring what you did to the top of it. And sometimes men's interference makes things worse. (Like digging out the toe of a hill to build houses which can lead to a landslide!)

Now, I'm not expecting that if I live in the woods that I'll build a log cabin to camouflage into the trees. But I just love how some homes, especially ones older than 150 years seem to flow with the land, working with its curves and dips. Not bulldozing out the imperfections, but cherishing them for their unique aesthetic.

Take this 18th century building in Ellicott City, Maryland for example:

Notice how the stone foundation of this building is built around this honkin' piece of rock. And look at the brick sidewalk! That beautiful, ancient stone wasn't forced to make way for the sidewalk - that brick, man-made sidewalk bowed and made way for the older, more mature geological feature. Now, that's called respect!

I'll have to take more pictures of other parts of this city that illustrate this point beautifully. More to come!

Busy, Busy, Busy

After the panicked peach pitting party (don't you love alliterations?!), I've gotten the canning bug again. Thank goodness! The peak of the season is in full swing and will soon be waning.

And I've been a busy little bee. I was doing the buying for my produce co-op and the produce company had a great deal on local pickling cucumbers. So, I got together with 2 other ladies from church and we bought 2 bushels. Yes. 2 BUSHELS. That was really silly. I guess I really had no idea how BIG a bushel was! Haha! So, we had a ton of cucumbers. And cucumbers are delicate little things and must not be bumped about, be chilled (dry) and then canned right away. Something we learned: water + cucumbers = slime.

So I had my first ever canning bee yesterday. The three of us got together and from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm we canned as much as we could, which wasn't much with one electric stove. I came home and canned the rest of my pickles. I've got spears and chips, and today I'm planning on using the rest of my cukes for relish.

Let me tell you something. There is just something about seeing home-canned pickles in a jar that makes me so ticklishly happy. Maybe it's because they're not neon green. Maybe it's because with all the garlic and dill floating in the brine they look so fancy gourmet and upscale. Maybe it's because when you twirl the jar back and forth the spears look like octopus legs and the dill looks like seaweed and the garlic looks like little white fishes...

Don't believe me?!?


Little white fish garlics swimming around the octopus legs.
Seriously, I am not crazy. Just imaginative!

A beautiful demure green, don't you think? 

I added peppercorns to a few. :-) How many neon green jars have those?

Beautiful pickles. 

My pickle-loving son sure is happy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We're Good!

We were very blessed and have come through the storm unscathed. We fell asleep to the wind and rain beating our house (which strangely reminded me of the winter time...) and woke up to more rain and wind, but less of it and also someone else's aluminum siding in our yard. We did not lose electricity and our basement stayed nice and dry. Yay! We were on the outer edge and so it wasn't nearly as bad as it was for those along the coast.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparation: It Doesn't Happen Overnight

For us here in Maryland, Hurricane Irene won't hit until late Saturday evening. Today I went to the store to see if I could maybe get some extra butane fuel for our camp stove and some more D flashlight batteries and some extra C batteries for our radio (even though we have a solar-powered/hand cranked radio too.) I'm sure you've all heard or experienced what happens to stores when people are forewarned about an impending disaster. That's right. All the D and almost all the C batteries were gone and the camping shelves were almost completely bare. We swung by Costco and even though they had just barely opened, the place was swamped and the gas station had a 15-20 minute wait! Wow.

So, you've probably guessed that I did not get my D batteries or extra butane fuel. And that's ok. Usually I'm pretty paranoid and anxious, but with our current preparations that we've done over time (however imperfect they are), I feel at peace that we'll be alright. (Unless our windows get busted...) We are actually on the outside edge of the hurricane's fury and are, so far, told to expect winds of 30-50 mph and 8-12" of rain. I am really feeling it for those coastal people who have it much, much worse. My biggest worry for us is the electricity going out because we have nothing to power our sump pump to keep water out of our basement if we have no electricity. It's difficult being in a rental and having a generator (expensive!) and keeping the fuel on hand somewhere to run it. Not to mention the fear of someone stealing it... Like I said, I can be a little paranoid.

Overall, though, preparing for this storm has been an interesting experience thus far. It's been an emotional test for myself, the worrier, and I really am amazed at the peace that I have while so many people have fear and are running to the stores to stock up on anything and everything - a financial burden all at once, to be sure.

To use a Biblical example: Noah did not build the ark in one day. He didn't start to build when the rains had started and the fountains of the earth had burst forth. He prepared for quite some time before hand. Emergency preparedness today is no different. It really can't happen overnight. It can't. Even if you have a chunk of disposable money, there are physical skills and tools needed to exist for a few days to even weeks on your own without water or electricity or access to grocery stores. Those are skills and supplies that need to be practiced and built up before a storm. Also, in the face of a storm, it is hard to think clearly, especially at the store when so many others around you have an energy of fear and panic. And stores only have so many resources before they run out. Building up skills and emergency kits for your home, car, or evacuation as you go along through life will bring that peace of mind for disaster - expected or not. That way you can be sitting at home sipping hot cocoa with your kids instead of frantically filling your shopping cart, hoping that you're not forgetting something, or regretting that others got there first and took it all.

A little solemn and dramatic, perhaps? Well, there is a hurricane raging on the eastern coast currently and there are people whose lives have been drastically changed already. Let's keep them in our thoughts and prayers.  And I sincerely hope that we can all be prepared the best that we are able for whatever lies ahead. (Myself included!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Triple Whammy

So, we had no water from a water main break over a week ago, we had that earthquake hit, and now we've got a hurricane on it's way! I feel very lucky that the water main break was a minor blip in our lives. The earthquake I totally missed because we were driving back from picking peaches at Larriland Farms and our house was as we left it. Funny, huh!? But a great blessing that it wasn't worse. And there doesn't seem to be much worry about the hurricane from people I've talked to because of how far inland we are, but I'm more suspicious. Okay, so NO I've never been in a hurricane myself. I've only ever experienced the rain bands off a hurricane. You get that even in the midwest. But I think it's better to be prepared and wary than brushing the whole hurricane off as a minor puff of wind and some light rain. Mother Nature is unpredictable, folks! You just never know.

So, another plug for getting yourself prepared! And I'm not some crazy kook either, believe it or not. You can just go to the websites of the Red Cross, FEMA, and Ready.gov to see that it's an empowering thing to be prepared. Our government agencies want us to take the responsibility to prepare ourselves so that they're relief burden can be less. It's understandable. The more people that are prepared and are able to help themselves, the more the agencies can accomplish in the more severe areas.

Anyway... it's been interesting to see my 4-year-old son's reaction to the news about the hurricane. According to him, we'll be able to fend off the hurricane with our hose on full blast and we'll need to hold our car down with really strong tape so it won't blow away. Oh, and the paint on the car will blow away, so we'll have to paint it a different color - blue-green or green-blue (his favorite colors incidentally.) His logic is totally awesome.

Here are some cool preparedness things that make it easy to be prepared even if you live in a small place or are transient:

- MREs
- a volcano stove (you can burn propane, charcoal, wood or Fueled Up! in it. Cool!)
- Fueled  Up! emergency fuel. This stuff stores in a bucket for 30+ years, is safe to keep in your home and around food, and you can use it anywhere... well anywhere that's fire proof of course! It's perfect to use with a little portable barbeque grill.
- 2 liter bottles cleaned and filled with water. You can store these all over your house because they're so small - under sinks, under your bed, in a shed, etc. Just be sure to leave enough air space at the top to allow for freezing expansion if it's stored where it will freeze.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Without Water

The past few days we've had a lot of rain. Well, last night there were two water main breaks within a mile of our house. We had super low water pressure all last night and then this morning, no water at all. So, the city must have shut off the water at some point.

You might be wondering why I'm not completely freaking out. I'm not too worried at all, because we have a lot of 2-liters of water stored in our basement and since we drink filtered water, we actually just got all our jugs refilled recently. Whew! But it will be an interesting test to see how many 2-liters we go through and how long what we have would realistically last. (Thank goodness the kids got baths last night, but the bad news is that today is laundry day! Yikes!)

This is just one example of why emergency preparedness is so important. It doesn't have to be a major weather disaster like a tornado or hurricane. It can be something so simple as a water main break and the city shutting off your water until it's repaired. Would you have enough water to drink or cook with, let alone wash with? And what about toilets? That's one thing I'm finding out about right now. Water conservation is definitely a skill I could learn more about!

We've been using our upstairs toilet without flushing (sorry, but I just had to mention it!) and I just dumped 4 liters of water in the tank without successfully flushing it. That is a huge waste of water! And I'm finding out that our toilet uses way too much water to flush to begin with - something I need to remedy. We do have an emergency toilet bucket with enzymes and I'm thinking that if water isn't restored by the afternoon, we're going to have to bust that baby out. Woo! How fun!

Another thing I'm realizing would be helpful is to have a stash of paper goods and plastic utensils. Even if those are things you don't normally use, when you need to conserve water for washing, it really helps to alleviate the stress of the situation to not have a sink full of dishes!

There are a couple ironies in our current situation too. Like I said before, we've had off and on torrential downpours for a few days. It would have been good to have a big plastic tub outside collecting the water, even if I had only been planning on using it for my plants (when they finally got a chance to dry out!)

Another irony is that I have a water barrel and a rain barrel that I need to pick up from a friend's house that I just bought from her. I could totally have washing/flushing water right now if I had had that rain barrel hooked up, dang it! It would no doubt be full from all the rain we've been getting.

So, what I'm saying now is to learn from my experience. Water storage is so important! Every time you buy some soda, clean out the bottle and fill it with tap water. Buy some water bottles or jugs in bulk for drinking. (And don't think, 'I'll just go to the store and get some water in an emergency' because everyone will be thinking the same thing. Water run!) Learn some water conservation skills just in case you need them. And, for goodness sakes, have another toilet option, because you just never know! Imagine the peace of mind you could have in a situation like this if you had your own back up plan of your own water source. You might even have neighbors knocking on your door begging for a drink of water. (I actually had this happen a few years ago back in Utah when a water main broke and our water was shut off for a day!)

Check out my "The Storm Cellar" tab at the top of this page to learn more about emergency preparedness and see how you can be a little more prepared for the unexpected!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Coconut Rainbow Muffins

The real name for this recipe is: Coconut-Cherry-Carrot-Zucchini Muffins. Quite a mouthful! But I changed the name because my favorite thing about these muffins is... it's like biting into a rainbow! Who wouldn't want to do that?!?

I love these muffins. They're soft and moist, even when they're a couple days old! You have to make these babies. Even just to be able to say you've eaten a rainbow. But if the leprechauns come chasing after you, don't blame me.

Coconut Rainbow Muffins

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar (you can use honey, just be sure to alter the baking soda and liquid measurements)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. mace (or nutmeg... mace is expensivo!)
1/4 tsp. salt

3 beaten eggs
1/2 cup cooking oil (or 1/4 cup oil &1/4 cup applesauce for less fat)
1/2 cup milk (you may need a little more. it's kind of a stiff batter)

1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
1 1/3 cups flaked, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely shredded zucchini (including peel for that pretty green color)
1/2 cup chopped, well-drained maraschino cherries

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Grease 2 muffin tins with cooking spray.
3. Mix together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
4. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the eggs, oil, and milk.
5. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Fold in the carrots, coconut, zucchini, and cherries. If the batter is too stiff, add a little more milk.
6. Distribute the batter evenly between the two muffin pans.
7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the cups and allow to cool on cooling racks. Enjoy for breakfast, snack, or any time!

Once completely cool, store and refrigerate the extra muffins in a sealed container. Makes 24.

Happy Rainbow Muffin!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Much, Much Better!


Oh yeah! This is way better without the green squares, don't you think? I absolutely love it and I am so glad I ripped out those yucky green squares!

However, I was left with the problem of my blanket being too short on the sides. So, my solution was to use my extra cut quilt pieces to piece together a super sweet border. I think it really ties the blanket together. 

Ta da! It's not as long as our current blanket, but oh well! I think it turned out beautifully! Yay!

Now I'm working on quilting in the ditch around the white squares. I'm not sure what I'll do about quilting the border. I'm sure I'll figure something out. :-)

P.S. I asked my husband what he thought about it and he looked at me and said, "You're amazing." I laughed and said, "But what do you think about the quilt?" He looked at it and said, "It's interesting." Which is my husband's language for "The colors are too bright." Ha ha! Well, this is our spring quilt (thanks Holly for the seasonal quilt idea!), and I think we'll need a bit of cheering up after a long winter, don't you think? This quilt will be perfect for that! :-D

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's Coming Out

Bye bye, green fabric! (Thanks, Casey, for the push towards what I was already thinking of doing!)
Yes, I just couldn't take those green squares any more. So while watching Season 1 of HGTVs Design Star (love that show!), I ripped it all out. Yippeee!

Well, I'll Be!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Top is Finished!

Today I finished the window pane quilt top. Hooray! I am a little miffed about those stupid green squares, but I didn't really have a choice. I just didn't buy enough of the other fabric. I'm slightly tempted to go back and see if I could get some more and redo those squares.... The perfectionist in me is screaming to be heard! But, oh well. I'll just ignore that side of me and be happy that I actually finished something! Well, the top at least. Next up will be putting together the backing, making the sandwich of top, batting, and backing and then figuring out how I'm going to quilt this thing without driving myself insane like with the last quilt. :-)

Those ridiculous green squares! They totally ruin the look! Arrrgg......

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gardening in July

Lightning Bugs Love My Little Flowers!

We've been hit with a massive heat wave. It's not only been hard on me and my family, but on my plants as well. They're struggling along in their containers the best that they can. I have been a lot better with watering them every day than I was last season. With the heat wave we've also had a bit of a dry spell. I try to be conscious of my water usage, even living in a rain-rich state, and it makes me happy to conserve water even in little ways like reusing the water I use to wash my produce to water my plants.

A quick garden update: I pulled out my potatoes. They had cute baby tubers growing, but they were so infested with black flea beetles that I felt like it was too late to redeem them. I also didn't want to infect my jalapenos next door, so out the tubers came. And we had to clip off the runners for my acorn squash. They were taking over and it was getting hard to mow around/under them. The plant was never the same again, so I ended up harvesting two small acorn squashes and pulling out the vines. And I had to take out my cucumber vines. The leaves had gotten some kind of mold and the cucs weren't doing well. On top of that my tomatoes were getting blossom end rot from too much dedicated watering. So I had to pluck those off and start watering less. So sad! I am learning more every season. I'd say my green thumb is more neon yellow...

On the happy side, my jalapenos are doing fabulous. They are growing fat, green, and happy. (I've noticed that wasps really like jalapeno plants, but not much else does. Hmm...) I harvested my dill. I think it's done for the season. And I've made 2 batches of pesto with my basil. Note for next year: plant a whole bed of just basil. My son loves pesto pasta which is a nice surprise for me. I even made one batch half basil/half spinach and he didn't even notice the difference. {evil cackle} My strawberries have sent out runners and one plant even has a few more strawberries! Tomatoes are still growing, but no ripe ones. My Tumbling Tom tomato plant was looking sickly for a long time, but after some pruning and regular watering it has come back to life. My red onions in my front flower bed are finally coming up! I must not have been watering them enough. I tend to neglect watering the front for some reason....

I've seen some interesting bugs this season too like a baby praying mantis, many lightening bugs feeding on my little white flower ground cover, and tomato hornworm caterpillars (which I found out turn into the hummingbird moth. I even saw a hummingbird moth feeding on my morning glories and was so shocked! It looked so much like a hummingbird, I had to do a double-take!) There was also this totally bizarre round flat green bug with spikes all around its edge with a black head thing. It was kind of gross. When it comes to bugs I get a little queasy. I'm not sure what kind of a gardener that makes me, but at least I try! :-)

King Dill!

Herb Garden

Baby Purple Prince Tomatoes

Strawberries. I need to plant the runners in new pots...

Acorn Squash before it's downfall
An interesting caterpillar that adored my dill... the little booger.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good Ol' Uncle Amos

Awhile ago I mentioned to my dad that I was thinking of learning to play the banjo. And he said, "Oh. I have a banjo." I was really surprised! I mean, I know my dad and step-mom combined have a lot of stringed instruments including an upright bass, a harpsichord, a mandolin, and a few guitars. But I seriously had no clue about the banjo. It turns out that my great great Uncle Amos (my grandmother's uncle) played the banjo and my dad had inherited that very one. I begged my dad to let me borrow it. Heritage is really important to me and knowing that music flowing in my blood went as far back as a great great uncle was totally awesome! And I could hold his very banjo in my arms and strum on it just like he did was so exciting! He told me that as he got talking about the banjo he wasn't sure he wanted to let it go. So, I kind of gave up on it (secretly thinking I'd beg him some more later. heh heh heh....)

Well, while we were out staying with my dad for my brother's wedding he said he had the banjo all tuned up and ready to go. Whew, was I excited! I went downstairs, took it out of the case and then cradled it in my lap. Holding onto the neck, and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I started plucking away making tuneless music. And I was sold. That sound was so beautiful. I knew it was what I wanted to learn.

Now, banjo music has usually annoyed me. Come to find out, it's the Bluegrass style that is notorious for the bright-sounding feverish plucking that rubs me the wrong way after 5 seconds. I had heard about the clawhammer technique which involves more strumming and it was what I was interested in. Luckily, there's an Appalachian string shop not too far from where I live (yippee!), so I headed out there solo since my husband was a sweetie and watched the kids. 

I stepped into a cozy shop full to bursting with the rosy, gleaming woods of guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, fiddles, dulcimers, and banjos. It was a beautiful sight and I felt totally lost. I wandered for awhile soaking it in, and wishing I could just soak in the stringed instrument vibe. I stopped in the ukulele room, and was pleased to hear someone in the banjo corner pick one up and start strumming away. I was totally riveted. It sounded just like what I wanted to play! He stopped playing and I finally wandered over to the counter to ask one of the shop guys for a banjo mute (since they're kind of loud and I have kids and neighbors) and he offered to show me how it worked. I agreed and we went back to the banjos and he showed me how to slide the mute on and off the bridge. I asked if they offered lessons and he said they did. When I asked if they taught clawhammer, he said no, they only had instructors that taught Bluegrass. Bummer!

Then, out of the blue, a guy behind us said, "I teach clawhammer." The shop guy left, happy that I'd found someone into clawhammer too who could answer my questions. This guy was a student who taught clawhammer banjo on the side and even though I hadn't seen the mysterious banjo player's face from before, this guy must have been the one playing. He was really nice and was so willing to talk to me about the banjo and showed me the differences between the Bluegrass style verses the clawhammer style. He shared tips and played a little. The music was sweet, mellow, and melodic. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard and I was blown away. I had no idea the banjo could sound like that (aka not annoying)! Man, if I hadn't been sold before I was sold now. He gave me his contact info for lessons during the summer before he goes back to school.  

It has been awhile since I've had such a freakish meeting with fate. Of all the days to wander into that shop. Ha! But, boy am I excited! I'm hoping to have a couple lessons to learn some solid technique and then be able to teach myself from there. I can almost feel the banjo cradled in my arm as I strum out an old mountain tune. :-) Good ol' Uncle Amos! (And thanks, Dad!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...